Home education is an incredible adventure! It provides us, as parents, with a remarkable opportunity to enjoy our children’s company and grow wise as we all learn together. Like all genuine adventures, however, there are times when pressure builds and the whole thing feels like a lot less fun that it was before. Perhaps the biggest source of pressure for homeschoolers is exams – specifically GCSEs and IGCSEs. Whether it is schools entering young people for huge numbers of subjects, grandparents offloading their worry onto you and expressing concerns that their grandchildren will get no qualifications, or other home educators declaring on Facebook how wonderfully their offspring did in exams, it is so easy to allow exams to suck the joy and the fun out of those final years of formal home-based learning.

So, we have put together six key things to avoid or reduce stress while preparing for IGCSEs

Plan ahead
Planning really is the key when it comes to IGCSEs. There is a load of things to do – this is unavoidable – looking at exam board web sites, downloading syllabuses (or specifications) and past papers, locating an exam centre, chatting with children about what they want to study, etc. etc. This is all much easier and far less stressful if it is done early – ideally three years before you plan to sit exams.

Don’t take on too much
By and large, children at school study too many subjects. It is common to hear of schools entering young people for 10, 11 or more GCSEs. Despite what schools claim, our view is that most schools do this to enhance their kudos, rather than in the best interests of young people. For the great majority of students 6 or 7 well-chosen IGCSEs is adequate. These should include maths and English language. But even where students have not got maths and English language, they can still secure places at college but are likely to have to start at a lower level and will be expected to study these two subjects. Avoid the temptation to study too many subjects!

Talk to people who have gone through it before you
Track down home educators who have walked this road before and ask them lots of questions. Ask them for tips on how they survived, what they would do differently, and how the whole process affected their family. At the same time, encourage your children to do the same – they need to talk to home educated young people who have completed their IGCSE study at home. Our children need to have their concerns met as well!

Find out what your daughter/son is good at
It is a good idea to try to study a broad range of subjects at IGCSE – this will keep as many doors open as possible for future study. However, do your best to look for what your children are good at, what they enjoy studying. If at all possible, avoid what they really dislike. Insisting on three sciences when your child’s passion is the arts may not be a good plan! This isn’t pandering – it simply allows young adults to have a say in their own future.

Don’t compare!
As human beings, lots of us find it very easy to compare ourselves with others – often very unfavourably! When it comes to home education and in particular IGCSEs, don’t compare yourself and your children with others – whether those others are the brightest at the local school or that homeschooled family down the road who happen to have the most academically gifted children you have ever seen! Your children have a unique set of gifts and talents, aim to nurture them. It is these talents that will stand them on good stead as they move into adulthood.

Have fun!
Home-based learning should be fun! The exam years are always likely to take some of this fun away; but do your best to watch for this and combat it. Hopefully, the previous five points will help maintain some of the fun. But if you notice that enjoyment has gone and the whole thing has become a trudge, maybe it’s a good idea to re-assess, speak to others and reflect on the way forward. After all, exams are not the be all and end all!